Oppressed or just distressed?
Megan Amato // Contributor
Talia Rouk // Illustrator
I was lying in bed the other night scrolling through my Instagram stories when I came across a story by non-binary Black political creative @Sassy_Latte that made me pause. Sassy found that their posts are “tone policed” by white women, meaning that these women often use their own emotions to invalidate Sassy’s sentiments and lived experiences. Repeatedly, white women will use spiritual bypassing—using spirituality or religion to gaslight or to suppress—or “we are all in this together” narratives to dismiss their voice. Sassy concluded that white women often have this driving need to centre themselves by pulling the victim card in their own supposed oppression. Sassy challenges this: Who exactly is oppressing white women other than white women themselves?
There are many “whataboutisms” often weaponized by white women whenever Black folk speak out about racism and oppression—and even when they are not talking about it at all—that bring up the history of how white men have oppressed women and how we all “need to stick together.” However, these kinds of conversations centre white feminism and white experiences, when BIPOC, and predominantly Black and Indigenous women, have faced the same violence from white men—and white women—while simultaneously facing other systems of oppression. This holds the opposite for us white women, who benefit from the same systems of white supremacy that oppress women of colour (WOC).
Sexism affects white women differently than it affects WOC. Not only does white-centric feminism drive the discussion around women’s liberation, it also co-opts movements created to highlight issues surrounding BIPOC. In doing so, we talk over WOC voices in the so-called effort to uplift women. There is a reason that the name Karen has become synonymous with an entitled white woman—Time and time again, white women have often developed a victim mentality when excluded. Refusal is not oppression.
On their Instagram post, @Sassy_Latte wrote that white women “don’t even understand oppression. They understand discomfort.” This is not to say that the patriarchy isn’t a problem; cis-male violence is indeed an issue in our society. Yes, white men discredit white women by using their emotions against them—but Black women aren’t often allowed to be emotional without being labelled as angry and/or dangerous. The way the patriarchy treats WOC is inherently more violent than the way it treats white women—Indigenous women are still being sterilized against their will in Canada.
White women who continue to uphold these oppressive systems are upholding white supremacy. The reality is that we have benefited from this oppression for hundreds of years, and we don’t want to let go of it—we don’t want to be treated the way BIPOC are treated. The longer we can keep the blindfold of oppression on, the longer we can use it as an excuse when we are called out. If we admit to creating our own oppression, we would have to admit our own role in allowing white supremacy to oppress BIPOC and other marginalized identities. To be free of the patriarchy we have to dismantle the systems that uphold white supremacy. We need to place WOC and other marginalized folks at the forefront of feminist movements, and stop being the victims of our own creation.